Monday, September 18, 2017

Does COPD have a Genetic Component?

Some people are genetically predisposed to developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is due to a mutation that prevents a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAt) from exiting the liver. This protein is produced in the liver and used by the body to fix environmental damage in the lungs. With this mutation, AAt is produced in excess causing polymerization, or chains of the protein that are too big to exit the liver. People with this mutation are more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and/or cirrhosis of the liver. A person can live with the mutation and be completely healthy or have one cigarette and develop emphysema. Researchers who found the genetic mutations have said that the major risk factors for developing COPD are whether or not that person smokes.

Image result for smoking

This mutation seems to work differently on a case to case basis. Recently, a person close to me developed COPD and after reading this article I was concerned that it could be genetic. However, half way through the article it stated that smoking was still the biggest cause of COPD and the person close to me had been a smoker for over 40 years. The second article below states facts about COPD including the statistic that 3.2 million people died of COPD in 2015.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Depression Might have Genetic Cause

The first thing that first comes to the mind after hearing the word depression is certainly not unicorns and rainbows. It is a very serious disorder, and people suffering from it feel helpless and worthless most of the time. According to the article on ScienceDaily, 800,000 people die from suicide every year. Even though environment plays a big role in depression, genetics is also a key factor. The culprit responsible is a gene known as Slc6a15.  The study done on this gene revealed that the levels of this gene in a neuron have a great impact on the mood of an individual. 

Another study performed by Dr. Lobo suggest that Slc6a15 is present more in specific neurons in the Nucleus accumbens. It is a part of the brain that is known for its role in the brain’s reward circuit. As the pleasure center, this part makes people feel good about enjoyable experiences. The scientists also studied mice behavior with respect to depression. When different types of mice were subjected to stress, they showed signs of depression like- not eating. Moreover; the level of Slc6a15 gene in the D2 neurons of the nucleus accumbens was also significantly reduced. Dr. Lobo also studied the brains of the people who had depression and committed suicide and discovered that in the nucleus accumbens the gene was reduced. Depression is a horrible mental disorder and I think this discovery might help find new ways to treat it.

Could a stress hormone prevent disease after being exposed to a traumatic event?

       In the article on ScienceDaily, it briefly discusses the research that was conducted at the Universitat de Neurociéncies of the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. After exposing mice to a traumatic event, researchers discovered that the Ppm1f (protein phosphatase 1f) gene was altered in the mice's brains. Ppm1f is responsible for regulating the activity of Camk2 (calmodulin-dependant protein kinase 2). This protein is imperative in many bodily processes including in memory encoding,  heart functioning and in the immune system. This sheds light on how individuals who suffer from PTSD from being in a traumatic event have a heightened susceptibility to developing heart disease, cancer, or many other physical diseases.
      In order to find a treatment option that could ultimately prevent these physical diseases from developing as a result of stress, researchers injected mice with glucocorticoid, which is a stress hormone, an hour after exposing them to stress. The results concluded that glucocorticoid was able to prevent the alterations in the Ppm1f gene, which also reduced anxiety and depression. I found it to be particularly interesting that a stress hormone, which is secreted in the brain as a result of stress, was able to prevent changes to the Ppm1f gene. Due to this paradox that a stress hormone could potentially prevent diseases, I believe that this finding will broaden the horizons for future research in medicine.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Using Jellyfish Florescence to Study DNA Replication

According to an article on ScienceDaily, a fluorescent protein found in the jellyfish was inserted into the bacteria that normally live inside the human gut. This protein lights up under the UV light; hence, the cells could be traced and observed.

This helped the researchers observe the DNA replication during the formation of new cells. When a cell divides the DNA has to be divided and copied with complete accuracy. This process was thought to be very slow and systemic; however, in light of the new research, it was concluded that it is a much more dynamic process. While the scientists were watching the DNA replicate, they also observed that during this process a component known as DNAb helicase acts as a molecular anchor to the process and remains stable throughout. I think it is pretty cool and smart to use jellyfish fluorescence to track and study DNA replication in humans. Hopefully, this will help scientists understand the errors in DNA copying and the diseases that result from it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I Got Points Off Once For Having A large Percent Error, What Does NY Get?

As a normal person, I am one to think of ways to get out of legal conflict (aka I done goofed and got myself behind bars).  But today I am here to say, "Katie, look no further." Yes, ladies and gents, I am here to inform you that the people in charge of putting the convicts behind bars have come in clutch. According to a piece by Lauren Kirchner for they New York Times, New York City's FBI labs have been using faulty technology to do the impossible: identify suspects based on only a few picograms of DNA. And no, picograms is not a gram of the spicy and colorful salsa of the Spanish culture, pico de gallo.  Picograms is a really really really small sample of DNA (I'm talking 10E-12) that the public and some uninformed law enforcement believe a scientist can pinpoint to a certain person's DNA sequence. This feat of course came with consequences, such as sending innocent people to jail or not sending anyone to jail at all (including the suspects that were guilty!)  It seems that in a heavily concentrated bureaucratic system, the people ordering the sample to be analyzed did not realize that they were asking for something that is beyond the technology that is currently available.  But like any scientist that wants to please the people in charge of them, Dr. Theresa A. Caragine created new DNA analysis tests that is able to analyze smaller amounts of DNA than the technology that were being used currently (Kirchner, New York Times).  One technique that Dr. Caragine developed was the high sensitivity test.  This test pushed the usual technique of amplification through polymerase chain reaction a few cycles more to amplify the small amount of DNA a total of 31 times (compared to 28).  This allowed a larger sample to be analyzed, however like all good things, there is always a "but."  With larger amplification of the DNA sequence came larger amplification of imperfections from missing or contaminated DNA sequences.  Accounting for this, Dr. Caragine had to agree to only use samples that were 20 picograms or more before the use of her technique was approved by her directors.  This policy was not carried out correctly and samples as low as 14 picograms have been used as evidence to convict the accused, creating a larger margin of error.  This would be fine except in some cases, people who have had no other evidence against them have been sent to jail because of this technique.  This meant people who were going to be found innocent saw a different fate because of a technique that has an average error of about 20%.  After five years of continuous use, the techniques that Dr. Caragine had developed are finally going to be suspended until the percentage of error is at the more accepted value of less than 5% (Kirchner, Propublica).  Unfortunately, if I wanted to rob a bank in the city of New York and leave no trace except for a few skin cells, I'm going to have to pull a 30 second montage and get it done quickly.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Gene Connected to Brain Damage in Pre-term Infants

Premature birth is often connected to inflammation, commonly caused by an infection in the baby or the mother. The article on ScienceDaily, further explains that these infections cause some serious damage to the brain which results in cerebral palsy and autism. While researching microglial cells, scientists came across a gene named DLG4 in these cells. They came to the conclusion that this gene controls the inflammatory processes. DLG4 was first thought to be only involved in the function of the nervous system; however, it is now certain that it causes brain damage in some pre-term babies. I hope this discovery will help scientists find better treatments for neurodevelopmental diseases, and will also be able to stop or prevent inflammation connected with pre-term birth.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Honeybees can play a role in developing new antibiotics

Image result for honeybee

 In the article from ScienceDaily, UIC researchers, led by co-investigators Alexander Mankin and Nora Vazquez-Laslop discovered that a natural product from honeybees, Api137, is an inhibitor of translation termination. Antibiotics are known to kill bacteria by targeting ribosomes. However, Api137 interferes with different stages of translation when DNA is to be translated to proteins. This is significant because no new antibiotics have been discovered in 30 years and many bacteria are becoming resistant which is a major concern in public health. About 2 million people each year become infected with bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics, and about 23,000 of them die. This discovery can help create many new drugs to fight bacteria.